The presence of sulfate-rich fluids in natural magmatic hydrothermal systems and some carbonatite-related rare earth element (REE) deposits is paradoxical, because sulfate salts are known for their retrograde solubility, implying that they should be insoluble in high=temperature geofluids. Here, we show that the presence of quartz can significantly change the dissolution behavior of Na2SO4, leading to the formation of extremely sulfate-rich fluids (at least 42.8 wt% Na2SO4) at temperatures >~330 °C. The elevated Na2SO4 solubility results from prograde dissolution of immiscible sulfate melt, the water-saturated solidus of which decreases from ≥~450 °C in the binary Na2SO4-H2O system to ~270 °C in the presence of silica. This implies that sulfate-rich fluids should be common in quartz-saturated crustal environments. Furthermore, we found that the sulfate-rich fluid is a highly effective medium for Nd mobilization. Thermodynamic modeling predicts that sulfate ions are more effective in complexing REE(III) than chloride ions. This reinforces the idea that REEs can be transported as sulfate complexes in sulfate-rich fluids, providing an alternative to the current REE transport paradigm, wherein chloride complexing accounts for REE solubility in ore fluids.

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